The MiniMed 670G, nicknamed “artificial pancreas,” is an implantable pump that senses blood glucose levels and delivers precise insulin doses to diabetic patients. This device could make syringes for injecting insulin a thing of the past. Victories like this in the fight against diabetes remain scarce, unfortunately. Even though the disorder is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, research is severely underfunded. To make matters worse, public awareness of how to prevent the condition, and how to manage it effectively, remains insufficient.
The medical community needs to put more emphasis on research. They have the power to stop the epidemic in its tracks. Diabetes takes a toll not just on the health of millions of Americans but on the economy, too. The disease costs Florida more than $24 billion a year, and the entire country about $250 billion every year. For growing nations especially, diabetes-related expenses can be devastating. In several Caribbean countries, as many as 25% of adults suffer from the disorder. All together, it costs the region almost $500 million annually.
Why is diabetes so costly? The condition often leads to life-threatening disorders like stroke, kidney failure, and heart attack. Diabetes is to blame for almost 30% of all end-stage kidney disease in the Caribbean. Compared to these astonishing treatment expenses, research funding for diabetes is such a small allowance. Consider that the disease kills 28 times more Americans each year than HIV/AIDS. Still the National Institutes of Health spend nearly three times as much every year on HIV/AIDS research as on diabetes research. Given the huge promise of so much of today’s diabetes research, this lack of funding is a missed opportunity.
Scientists at Harvard and MIT are searching for a technique for making large numbers of insulin-creating cells that could control the disease for years at a time. Johnson & Johnson and biotech firm Viacyte are creating the first-ever stem-cell treatment for diabetes. Boston-based Intarcia is working on its own mini-osmotic pump inserted just below the skin for continuous delivery of exenatide. We’ve never been closer to curing diabetes. However, meeting that target will take much longer if funding remains so low. Stopping the epidemic will need a more aggressive effort to diagnose and prevent the diseasw